Friday, June 11, 2010

SteamPink: coach car - E. Fenwick

Meet: Emily Fenwick
Occupation: Former NYPD, now Guard of Steamside
Location: Alternate New York, 1890
Genre: Steampunk, Romance, Time Travel

Meanwhile, on another train ride...

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by Ciar Cullen
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Miss Pettigrew tapped her pen against her lips before making another notation in her book. I watched in a trance as the ink trail dried. Her hand grew translucent, and her cute face shimmered in and out of existence.

“Who the hell are you?”

“I’m your new best friend forever. And you are about to meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger.”

The floor fell out from under me. My skin ripped away in long strips as I tumbled around the universe, banging my head on clouds and scraping my feet on mountains. Have you ever been thrown to the bottom of the surf, dashed around by a big wave and unable to figure out which way is up? Multiply that panic and disorientation by a million and add excruciating pain. I’m sure I screamed before passing out, even though I don’t remember hearing it.

I woke in a train car, alone. Not Amtrak, not New Jersey Transit, or the Long Island Railroad. This car was full of wood and brass and elegance, except for the soot-covered windows. I managed to sit upright as it pulled into the station with a mind numbing screech and whistle. The sign said Grand Central Depot.

I didn’t need a sign to tell me what my soul knew. I’d boarded the express train to insanity. Miss Pettigrew met me, waving from the platform as if we were old pals paying an overdue social visit.

“Welcome to New York,” she chirped, dimples springing to life.

I stumbled down the steps onto the platform, clutching the railing so I wouldn’t fall or vomit from the ride to sometime else. A couple of characters joined her—a young guy of Asian descent with what looked to be leather dreadlocks, expensive clothing, and a smile that pulled at your libido—Pettigrew introduced him as Screw. Screw kissed my hand. He still does sometimes, and I pretend to hate it.

His pal, a tall lanky Black guy with a dozen visible piercings, wore clothing with straps everywhere, most of them sheathing short knives. Barber, his name was, nodded at me as he sized me up like he might use one of the knives on me.

“Nice tat,” he mumbled and broke into a friendly grin at odds with his appearance.

“I don’t have a tattoo.” Did I? Or was I someone else, someone with a tattoo and friends named Screw and Barber?

Pettigrew waved them away and linked her arm through mine, pulling me across the platform to a stairwell. She stood on tiptoe and whispered, like an adolescent girl sharing a secret. “Miss Fenwick, a TAT is a new recruit. It means Torn Away from Time.

That was high praise coming from Barber.”

“Great.” I choked back the bile threatening to erupt. Screw pushed past us and mounted the brass railing to ride backwards down the winding staircase. “Get her to the Man, she’s really pale. She needs juice.”
Juice? I needed my freaking sanity. I needed heavy sedation.

As it turns out, that’s what juice is. I must have met the Man—his real name is Jack—that day, but I don’t remember anything about it. I do remember falling asleep to the distant sound of marching music, and watching a lightening bug the size of a horse fly past by a grimy window. It didn’t look like it was going to eat me, so I didn’t bother reaching for my pistol. Which is good, because that was still in my locker at the station. In 2010.

That was over a year ago.

In which Miss Fenwick develops affection for her captor.

It was almost my 26th birthday, but I hadn’t told any of the Punks. I don’t dislike attention, but I didn’t want to learn that no one cared. My birthday was always hot, and as I waited in the sweltering sun in my widow’s regalia—layers and layers of black (all female TATs wore black until they graduated)—I yearned for it to be any other August. I glanced out at Central Park’s Great Lawn as I waited for the Man to return to collect me, trying to avoid the bad habits—21st Century habits—that plague me and annoy the hell out of Petti. Hair twirling, finger tapping, foot wiggling—none of them appropriate for a lady.

Waiting for the Man set my nerves on edge. I was anxious to just see him, to be in his presence; at the same time knowing his appearance would signal a return Steamside, as my companions had christened our own slice of late Victorian hell. The Punks love naming things, including calling themselves punks. It fits some of them. But you have to cut them a break. I mean, we’re stuck in 1890, at least half the time. I’m not sure when the other half is, or if it is a when. Even the hardiest psyche—that would be the Man himself—sometimes has trouble adapting to the little details of our existence.

Petti told me I’m fitting in Steamside, and sometimes I believe her. You don’t know how important fitting in becomes until it’s all you can cling to. I thought I’d left that worry behind in high school. Since no one Steamside seems to understand why or how we got here, we’re all in the same leaky boat. I know I’m the weakest link. I cry a lot.

If Jack—the Man’s real name—saw me crying, he’d run his hand through his black hair in annoyance. I know enough psychology to chalk up my crying to post-traumatic whatever. In front of the Man, I could usually suck it up.

When a guy rounded the corner, I bit back a groan it wasn’t Jack. I knew this stiff, a constable or whatever the 19th Century called cops. He rubbed at his chin with one hand and swung a Billy-club with the other as he approached me. In my full widow regalia, I didn’t have the look of a prostitute, so he settled on a slow formal nod.

Do not look annoyed. You are pleased with his concern for your wellbeing. A subtle smile is allowed.

He tipped his hat and moved on, no doubt assuming I waited for a lover. In a sense I did, but Jack was my lover—no, my love—only in my dreams and fantasies. Yeah, he was talk, dark and handsome. Petti’s a scream. Jack is her brother.

In the distance, I heard the strains of a brass band practicing in the park. Anytown, USA, except it happened to be the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The crap that goes for Normal entertainment is astonishing. I don’t mind the opera so much, and the Punks go in for it. The Punks also love to dance, and waltz lessons had been part of Petti’s initiation. But the total fixation on marching music is too much. The word “Sousa” makes the female Normals swoon. Of course, everything seems to make them swoon, including the sight of a bare table leg. I can’t imagine how they procreate.

With thoughts of sex, thoughts of Jack inevitably followed. I’m sure I wasn’t alone. Jack was hot, and I often tried to imagine him tinkering back home in his shop—at least the rumor was he’d been a carpenter. Sigh. The Man in a t-shirt and worn jeans. Would it make him more approachable if he didn’t wear crisp white collars?

I don’t know why he intimidated us all. I don’t think he tried to, or if he did, he didn’t need to try hard. The Punks respected him, and always avoided gossiping about him, or questioning how he came to be their leader. No one seemed to remember a time when he wasn’t in charge.

The Man didn’t flinch, no matter what came down the pike. It was unnatural, saintly, and very puzzling. The men wanted to be like him, the women wanted to be with him, and as far as I could tell, no one came close on either count.

Where the hell was he? He’d gone off to investigate the newest gaping hole in time or space or whatever was getting shredded and threatening the world. And the future. Whatever, you get what I mean. If there’s no 1890, then there’s no 1891, and ultimately, no 21st Century. Which is a problem for someone who wants to go home.

I looked at my tiny pocket watch for the umpteenth time. A newsboy, no older than eleven, waved his paper pleadingly before me. Women typically didn’t buy the news, but I couldn’t resist the child, with his Oliver Twist looks, scuffed up shoes and scruffy hair. I rummaged through my drawstring bag for a few pennies, and dropped them all into his hand. Hell, it wasn’t my money, and the kid looked thrilled. He broke into a run before I realized that I didn’t know how much a newspaper cost. I glanced at the headline—something about Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm that didn’t mean squat to me. Would I be here during the First World War? I didn’t even know when it would start.

The tap of Jack’s peculiar quick pace on the path hit my nerve endings like lightening. What would he say? Did we have something else to do before shredding Steamside? Would I throw up this time? His waistcoat tails flapped in the warm air as he rounded the corner from under Gothic Bridge. His pale cheeks flushed as he pointed to the sky and hurried to my bench. I stood, terrified that…that what? I wasn’t sure what to be terrified of anymore, but Jack was about to tell me.

I stared up through the trees and saw the tail end of a blimp.

Jack turned me with a hand on each shoulder to face him from inches away. His deep brown eyes flashed in anger. He was going to kill me.

“What?” My blood boiled from the contact of his hands, my preemptive anger at whatever tongue-lashing he would dish out, and my terror that I’d screwed up somehow and might cry in front of him.

“Did you do that?” He pointed to the blimp, which glided over the Park with a faint hum. “Did you imagine it into existence, Fenwick?”

“Do what? It’s a blimp…” No, idiot, it’s not a blimp. It’s the blimp. Or more accurately, dirigible. A chill broke August’s hot hold on my body. I’d seen a lot of interesting things in 1890, but the Hindenburg shook me. Knowing how many people would die, perhaps. How many? I couldn’t remember much about it. Just the terrible footage of the devastation made more eerie by the swastikas.


“That’s not right.” I clutched at Jack, and he didn’t pull away, but blew out a deep breath and threw an arm around my shoulder in a way Petti would not have approved. I guess he decided I was a moron—I am sometimes. More importantly, he didn’t think I was responsible for this one.

“It will go down in Lakewood, New Jersey. It’s a few decades early, but who’s counting? Damn it.”

He sat on the bench and pulled me next to him. “Give me a minute.”

As if I’d do or say a thing to make him angry or move away. I’d never sat with him. Sleeve touching sleeve. I noticed the tiny dark hairs on his wrist, the smell of sweet pipe tobacco and shaving soap, his breathing. His tan hands were those of a working man, despite his starched clothes.

“It’s getting worse, Fen. I’m failing. We’re failing.”

“We’ll figure it out.” As if I had any clue how we were going to stop time from going haywire. So lame, telling the Man that it would all be fine.

“Let’s shred Steamside so I can think in peace. I know you hate the shred.” He glanced at me in challenge. That I even figured into his thought process thrilled me.

“It’s not that bad. Not as bad as an axe to the skull. Close.”

“It hasn’t gotten better for you, you’re like a TAT.” But his voice was laced more with sympathy than disdain. And he’d called me Fen, a nickname no one else had used.

“We’re screwed, Fen. Royally. I’m failing you.”


“I meant all of the Punks.” He arched a brow and smiled a bit. I didn’t know him well, didn’t know that look. I guess I amused him, with my obvious crush. He was probably so used to crushing the hopes of his female charges. For just a moment, though, I caught a hint of a glimpse of a connection.

Jack took my hand and pulled me close before we went to the land that time not only forgot, but never knew existed. In that moment, right before the ripples of a continuum gone noncontiguous tore my flesh apart, Jack leaned in and mumbled that my mourning period was over. That one embrace was more sensual than some of the sex I’d had. Maybe it was the layers of itchy clothing separating us, or the inappropriateness of it for the era—downright shameful. Perhaps the heat of his breath on my neck, grazing me like a phantom kiss. Or perhaps, I was just so obsessed with him that I couldn’t separate my fantasies from reality anymore. He electrified me.

“Wear blue,” he ordered.


He nodded.

“Do you like blue?”

He simply smiled in a way that fired my nerve endings into overdrive.

I did wear only blue, from that day on. I found my Punk name and my Punk style, which included the showing of a fair amount of cleavage, a killer pair of round sunglasses, and a skirt I drew up on one side to show off my legs. And the pistol the Man himself left on my bunk, strapped to one thigh. Everyone has a day, now and then, that helps define them. I cried less after that day. I belonged, even if it was only among Punks.


Excerpt from Steamside Chronicles by Ciar Cullen (Copyright © 2010)

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by Ciar Cullen
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Steamside Chronicles
by Ciar Cullen
Published: May 31, 2010

Romance steam gauge: medium

Description from the amazon:
Emily Fenwick, former NYPD, is now reluctant defender of 1890 New York. Unfortunately for Emily, who hates "the creepy stuff," she ignored her inner voice, went to a carnival in Central Park, and entered a Victorian tent in hopes a psychic would have some encouraging news about her woefully boring love life. The guarantee she receives of meeting a tall, dark, and handsome stranger comes with a huge catch--he lives in an alternate dimension of the past.

Jack Pettigrew leads a quirky band of lost souls in a battle to save New York circa 1890. Nightmares have come alive and threaten to terrorize a fragile era. Jack leads the "punks," who have been sucked back in time through a vortex. Each has a fleeting memory of their own death--or near death--and must determine for themselves why they have been chosen for this mission. Is Steamside their Purgatory? Could an Egyptian obelisk in Central Park be the cause of the time rift, or is Emily herself to blame for the goblins, zombies, and other nightmarish scenes plaguing them?

If the Punks want to return to 2010, they must ensure there's going to be an 1891. If they conclude they're really ghosts, then it might be time to party like it's 1999.

Dear Reader, Please note that while this book has some adult content, it is not ultra steamy romance. If you prefer hardcore gadget laden steampunk--look away. While this book has some steampunk elements, it is primarily a fantasy romance. Best wishes!

*** steampunk ebook giveaway - courtesy of author ***

Sign up on one of the SteamPink giveaways to own a copy of this ebook.

updated 6.11.10
Note from Ciar:
Just wanted to say that as a gift I've lowered the price of this book to .99 the lowest Amazon will allow!

or better yet, go to Smashwords to get it for FREE!

Thanks Ciar!!!!

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